The secrets to . . .

Sneaking into the race undetected

By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / April 15, 2011

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For some runners, bib numbers, chip times, and finisher’s medals are immaterial. Unregistered, yet undeterred, bandits arrive in Hopkinton ready to race. Law-and-order types may disapprove of these renegade runners, but they are a part of race history and tradition, a nod to the bold, independent spirit that binds marathoners.

Despite the name, bandits are not Rosie Ruiz-style outlaws, subverting the system for unearned glory. The true bandit covers the entire 26.2 miles to experience the thrill and the pain of Marathon Monday.

With registration filling faster and qualifying times becoming tougher, the number of bandits likely will increase in years to come. But if they execute a proper race plan, from sneaking into the start to gently crashing the finish, no one should notice. Here’s a primer on how to run Boston without registering:

DO RECONNAISSANCE: Think basic, common-sense research, not elaborate Ocean’s Eleven-type planning. Figure out an easy drop off in Hopkinton, since you won’t enjoy official bus transportation. Get to know the corral configuration at the start — how, when, and where runners line up along Main Street. Talk with registered runners about what to expect, minimizing surprises. Develop a flexible plan about how you’ll slip into the corrals unnoticed. Maybe you wear a throwaway sweatshirt over your race singlet, letting people assume a bib number is underneath.

BRING CAMOUFLAGE: You don’t wear a T-shirt and jeans when crashing a wedding at the Four Seasons. The same rules apply to Boston Marathon bandits. Look like you belong. That means the obvious — running shoes, shorts, race shirt. As a corollary, look like you know what you’re doing. Follow the crowd to the corrals, rather than lurking around Main Street searching for an easy entry point. Go through your normal prerace routine, even join others in a good stretch.

OBEY RULES OF THE ROAD: Bandit status doesn’t mean a free pass once the race starts. Even though you can’t be identified by race number, respect the event and runners who worked hard and paid to enter officially. Don’t act obnoxiously or flaunt your bandit status along the route. The same holds true in the starting and finishing areas. Generally, officials accept bandits as part of the Boston Marathon spectacle. But if you draw too much attention, it might be a different story.


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